By Ashley Daniels
One would think that going to a Catholic middle school where learning was “inspired by faith and greatness”, priests and nuns were everywhere and mediators helped solve student arguments, that bullying would not exist. Nonetheless, even in a structured and disciplined environment such as this, I woke up every morning praying the day would be over before it even began.
According to my parents unbiased opinion of their first born child (insert sarcasm here) I was the “happiest, most beautiful and well behaved baby on earth”. Well, regardless of how perfect I may or may not have been, I do know that from my first memories as a child I was always trying to make others smile. I found out early on that I was what my family called an “old soul” and I made it my mission to see every I Love Lucy and Mary Tyler Moore episode before I turned six.
By the time I made it to middle school I was the class clown, and wasn’t afraid to make fun of myself if it meant getting everyone to laugh. One would think this type of humility in a child would make he or she well-liked, however, I soon realized that wasn’t the case. I would describe my middle school experience as somewhat bipolar. I had friends, we hung out, we had inside jokes, then one day I would come to school and everyone would be ignoring me and talking behind my back, then the next day I had friends, we hung out, we had inside jokes and so on and so on. Unpredictable behaviors like this caused intense fears of judgement on my end and forced me to go into a shell. Where I was once an outgoing and happy person, I soon began to be on constant alert fearing the moment when the rug would be pulled from under me.
As the years progressed, so did the bullying and my anxiety became debilitating. By 8th grade, the bullying became physical where my seat would constantly be pulled from under me, songs making fun of me became the tune everyone sang in the hallways, and out of an entire 60 kids in class, half would make fun of me and the other half would sit and watch. I did my best not let them see it get to me and would even go as far as laugh along with them in hopes that they would get sick of it and move on, however, it wasn’t until my boyfriend at the time, who had also graduated from the same school, went to the principals office and expressed his concern for my safety. That same day, my principal took me into her office, apologized to me for what had been happening and told me I had the option to take away the 8th grade field trip from any and all of the people who were responsible for the bullying. An hour later, I had to sit and look each culprit in the eye as they forced an empty apology on me and quickly asked if they could still go on the trip. One would think that this quick table turn of power would be fulfilling on my end, however, I was so broken that I honestly just wanted to get out of there as fast as possible. In the end, everyone went on their field trip and I instead opted to stay behind.
Looking back, all I wanted was to fit in. I remember feeling isolated—as if no one could possibly understand what I was going through and that if I tried to make it stop, it would get worse. I lived everyday in fear and anxiety which is no way for anyone—especially a child to live. However, with every hardship comes greatness and resilience and today I am stronger than anyone I know. In those moments where you feel most alone, beaten down and depressed just know that you can do one of two things. You can let it define you for the rest of your life OR you can use it as motivation to push yourself harder than you ever have and show yourself that you are unstoppable and indestructible. I chose the ladder and am forever grateful to those who did their best to stop me in my tracks. I am also thankful for the ones who do it to me today for they are very much a part of my journey to success and drive me to become more powerful, more resilient and more confident in who I am and where I am going in life.
Words of Wisdom & Life Lessons I Live By Today
“Don’t Use Bandaids”—Trying to fit in by changing who you are or how you look is just putting a band aid on a larger problem. In the long run you will gain confidence and pride in knowing that you didn’t let anyone change who you are. Be confident in knowing there is only ONE you and no one else can ever take your place.
“Hard Now Easy Later”—This is something a very wise person has taught me. Working hard today will give you a better tomorrow, and struggles and hardships will only lead to resilience and a better tomorrow.
“Think Longterm”—Always think longterm with EVERYTHING in life. Something that works for you in the moment may not be the best decision for you in the future.
“Talk To Yourself”—We are so distracted by what others think of us that we tend to forget to check in with ourselves. Once a day talk out loud to yourself and ask how you’re doing. Treat yourself the way you would treat someone you love.
“Cut Out The Toxins”—You’re never too young to realize the energies other people give off. If you realize that someone doesn’t have your best interests at heart, or is only there for you when you’re down, then you need to re-evaluate the situation. A true friend supports you in your endeavors, wants to see you succeed and does anything they can to help you.
“Don’t Dumb Yourself Down”—Never make your life or situation seem worse than it is in order for someone else to treat you better or not see you as a threat. You should be able to feel on top of the world and still be supported and loved by your friends.